PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma once memorably took the nation into his confidence when he disclosed that he sometimes could not sleep at night because of his distress over the high levels of poverty in South Africa.
Alarmed by this, his colleagues in the government have been making concerted efforts since then to ensure that the president is able to have a more pleasant experience when he lays his weary head on his pillow at the end of the day.
For some reason, though, these concerned colleagues have concentrated most of their well-intentioned efforts on his private home in Nkandla. (As sitting president, one would have thought Zuma would spend most of his time at one of his three official presidential residences.)
The result of their solicitous efforts is the magnificent splendour of Nkandla. It is still a work in progress, but is coming along nicely.
No expense is being spared to ensure the president has a comfortable night’s rest. So far, the bill is around R206 million.
Of course, this was not only spent on ensuring tranquillity in the president’s bedroom. The Department of Public Works was also forced to ensure that Zuma’s immediate environment was secure so that he could take a break from the pressures of government undisturbed.
Hence, according to a government report released on Sunday, the R7.2m upgrade on security, which includes bulletproof windows and security fences.
And, if the plight of the poor still deprives the president of sleep, an underground bunker has also thoughtfully been provided.
If that still doesn’t help, the president can always distract himself by spending time on one of the two Astroturf soccer pitches, on the tennis court or in the gym.
Public Works, clearly, was quite conscientious in their planning and made provision for every possible eventuality.
So eager were Zuma’s government colleagues to ensure the president’s nocturnal comfort that they didn’t even bother him with details of the upgrade.
“Was the president involved?” Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi asked himself on Sunday. “The answer is no.”
The fact that Public Works was tinkering with the president’s personal home was neither here nor there. They were sure Zuma would be quite happy with the end result. And as he didn’t pester them with any questions on matters of detail, it seems their self-confidence was not unfounded.
Nxesi, a committed communist, even set aside any misgivings he may have had about how pricey the upgrade turned out to be.
Strangely, though, the pro-free enterprise DA did raise some concerns about the costs of the upgrade.
Poverty is continuing to grow in South Africa. About 60 percent of the country’s children are living in poverty, and a third of all adults can’t find employment.
At this rate, Zuma will soon not be getting any sleep. We should be doing all we can to help him get some shut-eye. We can’t have a president suffering from insomnia; it causes a constant lack of energy and an inability to think clearly. Or it is already too late?